By Julie Slowinski
With the pandemic, I’ve been trying to cut back on Julie outings – to keep safe. But, by the end of January it seemed like cases were dropping and indoor dining was beginning to open up again – our last outing in December was almost completely outside and the extended periods in the Chicago cold definitely took a toll on us by the end of the night.
My friend Claudia was completely ready for a GNO, so we scheduled for a Thursday in February – that’s right, there was no Julie in January, except for one Saturday night at home when the kids were at grandma’s house. We were trying to keep things simple, so the plan was a visit to the Art Institute in the late afternoon, followed by dinner and drinks in the evening.
Once the plan was outlined, it was time to figure out an outfit. Luckily, the kids were gone the weekend before and I was able to test run some options with full makeup. Decided on a black velvet top that I’ve been wanting to wear out since I got it last spring. The gray and black color block skirt I’ve had for over 4 years and I think this is the first time it’s made it out of the house – kinda hard to believe. In any case, it seems to go perfectly with the black Nine West ankle boots. The red necklace and bracelet I got at White House Black Market for $10 each.
Back in December, we found a hotel with a very convenient policy on early check-in, so decided to use it again. I arrived around 11am and quickly got to work on my nails. Usually, I would go to the salon before checking in, but today I thought I might save some time by doing them myself – I was planning on a simple black color which should only need one coat and dry quickly. Of course, it was a total disaster, which is why I usually go to the salon – totally worth $20 to save me the aggravation and end up with nearly perfect nails.
Claudia arrived at noon, just as I was starting on my makeup. She usually arrives as I’m finishing my makeup, which is perfect as I can hand over the sink mirror for her to do her makeup. Her early arrival meant that we had to share a bit, but not a problem. In any case, I think the new contact lenses (that help me see up close without glasses) are making a big difference with my eye makeup. Rather than blindly apply and hope for the best, I feel like I’m improving my technique and can almost control what the outcome will look like. Still doesn’t turn out exactly the way I envision, but it’s definitely getting closer.
By 2pm the Julie transformation is complete and I announce, “Sorry to dress and run, but I’m gonna make a quick stop at Nordstrom’s to get some alterations on this skirt suit I just bought.” Our plan was to head to the museum by 3pm and she still has a ways to go, so she says, “Okay, have fun.” Now, I’m ready excited about this suit, cuz I’m a sucker for women’s business attire and I’ve always wanted a vibrant red skirt suit. The problem is that they don’t usually fit me very well – the jacket is always too tight in the shoulders. But, this time I decided to order a size up, to match my shoulders. Of course, that meant that I would be swimming in the skirt, even with my giant hip pads. The woman taking measurement was impressed with the quality of the suit, even though I got it for a steal from Venus. She also suggested taking in the waste on the jacket a bit. The one downside is that the alterations cost more than the suit. But, I’m fine with that. I’ve learned that proper fit is probably the most important aspect of what makes clothes look nice. I’ve already gotten it back, but have yet to try it on with hip pads (the pic is before the alterations), Before heading back to the hotel, I make a quick stop at WHBM to see if I can find some more jewelry on sale – they have fabulous jewelry, but it’s usually too expensive for me. Found a couple pair of earrings, again for only $10 each.
Got back to the hotel at 3:15. Claudia was just finishing her nails and we were in the Uber to the museum by 3.45. Now, Claudia was a bit nervous about this museum trip – she doesn’t day walk all that often and is really most comfortable in Boystown. So, this trip was pushing her boundaries a bit. About a week before she texted me and asked if people would be looking at us funny. I replied, “I’ve been to that museum in Julie mode at least a half dozen times. Never an issue. Art people are super accepting.” She did great. She arranged the tickets, so she did all the talking with getting us in the door and into the Monet special exhibition (https://www.artic.edu/exhibitions/9036/monet-and-chicago).
It was a fantastic exhibit and gave all sorts of interesting information in addition to the fabulous art. Claudia wanted me to take a picture with some haystacks and was like, “No, I’m not a fan of those.” I get it, he was trying to figure out how light works, but the permanent collection already has like 5 haystacks and I got my fill of them long ago. The very last room of the exhibit was what I was waiting for; the waterlilies. I’m just mesmerized by his ability to capture the reflections off the water. Okay, here’s the best part of the afternoon. At some point, Claudia strikes up a conversation with a random cis woman. I think it was in the waterlilies room, so I wasn’t so interested in chatting at the moment, but the two of them talked for several minutes – I was only in the conversation long enough for her to complement us on our outfits. Seems that our Claudia is starting to get comfortable with this day walking thing.
Before we leave, we swing by the modern art section – maybe get a quick look at a Jackson Pollock or maybe a Warhol. As we were heading out from the North entrance, we noticed a great view of the Chicago skyline and decided to grab a few pics. Our dinner reservations were at a place on Michigan Avenue called The Gage, just a short walk from the museum. For the most part it was uneventful, except for her getting a picture of me shoveling food in my mouth. From there we head to a place called The Darling, in the West Loop. It’s kind of a swanky place where we were seated on fancy red leather couches. They had some drink ordering system on your phone that I had a lot of trouble figuring out and had to keep going to the bar to place our order. I guess it was intended to minimize interaction with the wait staff, but it just made me feel old and technologically inept. When I first suggested another visit to a West Loop place, Claudia suggested that the people there are not so friendly. Don’t get me wrong, they’re super accepting of girls like us, but it’s definitely a younger crowd, mostly cishet and probably with more disposable income than the two of us, which is kinda saying something.
About 11 we head back to the hotel and chatted a bit more over some sparkling wine Claudia had brought explicitly for such a nightcap. Then, we deconstructed and both headed home. A low key night, but thoroughly enjoyable. Oh wait, I almost forgot about the rats. Back in boy mode, I was heading home and waiting for the train. There was some construction so the wait was unusually long. It was about 2am so the subway rats were all over the platform. Well, not really, there were only 2 and about 100 feet away. But, I’m deathly afraid of all rodents, so they were close enough to make me really nervous. I wouldn’t bring it up, but there was another time, back in Seattle, where a rat ran in front of me, maybe 2 or 3 feet away. I was in Julie mode and the odd thing is that I wasn’t scared at all. Is it possible for the boy version of me to have a rodent phobia and Julie not to? Just another odd example of how unpredictable this CD journey can be.